Movie DopeMovies

Movie Dope

21 JUMP STREET (R) 2012’s biggest surprise to date has to be this brilliantly dumb comedy from star-producer-story contributor Jonah Hill. A pair of pathetic new cops, Schmidt and Jenko (Hill and comedy revelation Channing Tatum), blow their first bust. As a result, they are transferred to a special undercover unit that sends fresh-faced policemen into local schools to nab drug dealers and the like. Their angry black captain (played with perfect apoplexy by Ice Cube) tasks the duo with finding the supplier of a new synthetic drug. Schmidt and Jenko hilariously discover that today’s high school flips their previous experiences. Former cool kid Jenko is banished with the nerds, while Schmidt experiences what it’s like to be popular. What should not work in this remake of the late ’80s/early ’90s Fox program, most famous as a launching pad for Johnny Depp, does with surprising comic force. The mission that Hill’s The Sitter half-accomplished is successfully completed by this flick, thanks to Scott Pilgrim scripter Michael Bacall’s smart riffs on ’80s action movies and two perfectly in sync leads. Could Hill/Tatum be a new comic duo or is this a one-time, lightning in a bottle deal?

AMERICAN REUNION (R) Sometimes reuniting with old friends isn’t all that bad, and American Reunion is much more entertaining than the last two times we hung out with Jim (Jason Biggs), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Oz (Chris Klein), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Stifler (Seann William Scott). At their 13-year reunion, the old gang—plus Michelle (Alison Hannigan), Vicky (Tara Reid), Heather (Mena Suvari), Jim’s Dad (Eugene Levy), Stifler’s Mom (Jennifer Coolidge), Nadia (a brief, unnecessary appearance from Shannon Elizabeth) and the rest (Natasha Lyonne, John Cho)—get up to their old antics. Once they were randy teens trying to get laid; now they’re randy adults with the same objective. Still, the scenarios (the hot girl Jim used to babysit, Oz’s celebrity dance show appearance, etc.) are funny, and the characters have aged well (some better than their actors). Biggs and Hannigan deserve a sitcom-y showcase, and Levy enjoys his dive into the raunchy end of the pool more than some of his paycheck-seeking costars. Yet Scott’s Stifler, forever stuck in his high school glory days, supplies the movie with its bounce and biggest laughs. Without the Stifmeister, the gang, including the audience, would have had a pretty boring reunion. 

• THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (R) Horror movies do not come much more perfect than The Cabin in the Woods, written by geek god Joss Whedon and one of his strongest protégés, Drew Goddard. A sublime tweaking of the entire slasher genre, Cabin’s deconstruction may be less meta than Scream, but its elaborate mythology—a staple of the Whedonverse—is transferable and adds a brand new reading to nearly every horror modern film. Five college friends (the most familiar face is the beardless one of Chris “Thor†Hemsworth, soon to be seen in Whedon’s The Avengers) take a weekend trip to the woods that ends in a bloodbath. The setup may be threadbare, but rest assured the twisty execution, hinted at in the trailers and established from the first scene between the excellent, seemingly out of place duo of Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins, hits its mark with every bloody, brilliant shot. I dare not say more without ruining the surprise. The Cabin in the Woods deserves its considerable genre hype and is the best horror movie of the year. It’s not going out on too weak of a limb to say it’s the best (written) horror movie since Scream.

CHIMPANZEE (G) Disneynature’s latest Earth Day feature documents the family life of chimps, like an orphaned chimp and his adopted father, living in the rainforests of the Ivory Coast and Uganda. The previous movies—Earth, Oceans and African Cats—have entertained and educated like Disney’s nature films of old. Filmmakers Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield were responsible for the incredible television series, “Planet Earth.†Disneynature’s annual Earth Day cinematic celebration continues to provide families with a pretty swell entertainment alternative.

DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX (PG) Released on Dr. Seuss’ 108th birthday, this pleasant animated adaptation of the beloved children’s author’s environmental fable fails to utterly charm like the filmmakers’ previous animated smash, Despicable Me. The Lorax may visually stun you, and Danny DeVito’s brief time as voice of the Lorax could stand as his greatest role, one that will go unrecognized by any professional awards outside of the Annies. Unfortunately, the movie spends a lot less time with the fascinating, entertaining forest fighter than it does with Ed Helms’ The Once-ler (I’m usually a big Helms fan but his zany naïf felt incongruously calculated here) and bland Zac Efron’s bland protagonist, Ted. On the bright side, the film excels as a traditional movie musical, where characters naturally transition into songs that deepen their character or advance the plot without some silly justification via subjective dream sequences or glee club memberships. The songs they sing could be more memorable; I cannot recall a single one a day later. The Lorax is not the year’s best animated feature (imagine what Pixar could do with Seuss), but the childishly funny film does not pander to its audience, young and old, even if it does preach a bit.

FRIENDS WITH KIDS (R) Jessica Stein herself, Kissing Jessica Stein star and writer Jennifer Westfeldt, heads back to the big screen in her directorial debut. Two besties, Julie Keller and Jason Fryman (Westfeldt and the increasingly awesome Adam Scott), decide to have a baby together, thinking their platonic relationship will suffer less from childrearing than a romantic one would. The cast is tough and filled with Bridesmaids (Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Jon Hamm and Chris O’Dowd) and Edward Burns.

FUNNY FACE (NR) 1957. Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn star in the classic musical from Singin’ in the Rain director Stanley Donen. A young woman becomes enamored with Paris, the life of a model and her big-time photographer. This Dress the Part Film is part of the Fashion in Movies and Magazines Film Series held in conjunction with the exhibition “Pattern and Palette in Print: Gentry Magazine and a New Generation of Trendsetters.” Nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Original Screenplay and Best Costume Design.

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (PG-13) Marvel’s Neveldine/Taylor experiment might have gone better had the company had the guts to release another R-rated flick a la their two Punisher flops. The Crank duo brings their frenetic, non-stop visual style, but those wicked paeans to hedonism had a narrative need to never slow down (its lead character would die). Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance must pump the brakes occasionally to let the “story†catch up, and Neveldine/Taylor never seem as comfortable when the movie’s not rocketing along at 100 miles an hour. They also don’t keep a tight enough rein on their star; Nic Cage is allowed to unleash every one of his worst acting instincts as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider, tasked with saving a young boy from the Devil (Ciaran Hinds). A handful of my favorite actors (Hinds, Idris Elba, Anthony Head) cannot save this merrily daft movie. Not even the Highlander himself, Christopher Lambert, who makes the most of his pitifully small screen time, is a match for the movie’s voracious, unhinged lead. Nonetheless, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is a step up from its tremendously awful predecessor (Neveldine/Taylor > Mark Steven Johnson).

THE HUNGER GAMES (PG-13) While a successful adaptation of a difficult book that near everyone has read, The Hunger Games has little cinematic spark. It’s a visual book report that merely summarizes the plot. It’s a well-written book report, but it’s still a book report. Seabiscuit director Gary Ross was not the most obvious choice to direct this dystopian adventure in which 24 teenagers are randomly selected for a contest in which only one will survive. That bleak premise was handled with more appropriately bloody violence in the Japanese film, Battle Royale, and America’s version of the game needed more of a visceral gut-punch to look less like “Survivor: Teen Island.†The book’s R-rated violence was deliberately shot with near incomprehensibility so as to retain a PG-13 rating. Seeing these popular characters brought to life proved most of the controversial casting choices were successful. Jennifer Lawrence has Katniss’ steely beauty, and Josh Hutcherson has Peeta’s magnetism. The jury is still out on Liam Hemsworth’s Gale. Woody Harrelson nails the obviously less alcoholic Haymitch. More time spent in the Capitol with Lenny Kravitz’s Cinna will be a boon for the sequel. All critiques aside, I was left with one question: How long until Catching Fire?

A JIHAD FOR LOVE (NR) 2007. In A Jihad for Love, filmmaker Parvez Sharma (who self-identifies as both gay and Muslim) investigates the often dangerous lives of gay, lesbian and transgender Muslims in Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, France, India, South Africa and more. The international award winner is screening as part of a film series sponsored by the alliance of student organizations in support of the Campaign Against Spiritual Violence, particularly when said violence is directed at the LGBT community.

JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI (2011) PG. This documentary is a portrait of 86-year old Jiro Ono, a sushi master in Tokyo. Director David Gelb glimpses Ono’s young life, his journey to revered chef, his craft and his heirs.

JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (PG) Journey 2: The Mysterious Island’s biggest problem might be time. Many of the young people who enjoyed its 2008 forebear, Journey to the Center of the Earth, might have outgrown the Brendan Fraser/Dwayne “The Rock†Johnson brand of family adventure movie. Sean (Josh Hutcherson, soon to be Peeta in The Hunger Games) and his future stepdad, Hank (the always appealing Johnson), travel to the mysterious island to find Sean’s granddad (Michael Caine). Along for the ride are a goofy helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman, being as Guzman-y as ever) and his gorgeous daughter (Vanessa Hudgens). The island’s giant, 3D-tastic flora and fauna make for a movie that’s fun to look at for an hour and a half, especially on the big screen, but does not create the sort of lasting impression needed to survive in today’s oversaturated entertainment market.

• LOCKOUT (PG-13) Lockout has a lot of things going against it from the opening credits, which may contain the year’s biggest laugh. “Based on an original story by Luc Besson?†Sure, an original story Besson had while watching a double-bill of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York and L.A. Let’s compare. A disgraced government operative, whose one word nom de cool begins with the letters SN, must sneak into a prison filled with lowlifes to rescue a high profile presidential hostage. You tell me which movie I just summarized. The answer is all three of them. And Lockout, despite its highly derivative concept that would have starred Christopher Lambert (sigh) had it been released in the mid-’90s, and the most infuriatingly idiotic setup of the past 10 years (grr) and the utterly frustrating character motivations/plot devices totally achieves its gung-ho, sci-fi/action objectives thanks to Guy Pearce’s wickedly amusing badass, Snow. The videogame influences on first-time feature directors, Stephen St. Leger and James Mather, are overt, and the flick should have gone for the R-rated jugular. Nonetheless, it’s more fun than most of the genre-mashup dreck Hollywood cobbles together these days. I’d have rather had a new Escape entry, but Lockout scratches the itch.

THE LUCKY ONE (PG-13) The latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation is directed by Scott Hicks of Shine and Snow Falling on Cedars? Maybe The Notebook will finally have a worthy peer. After surviving three tours in Iraq, a Marine (Zac Efron) travels to North Carolina to meet the woman (Taylor Schilling, the barely seen Atlas Shrugged: Part I) he believes to have been his good luck charm. How does this flick differ from Dear John? With Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom, Blythe Danner.

MIRROR MIRROR (PG) Not much clicks in 2012’s first reimaging of Snow White (the darker Snow White and the Huntsman drops in June). Julia Roberts does not an Evil Queen make; the anachronistic dialogue is wincingly unfunny; and the live action cartoon, overflowing with Stooge-y slapstick, is a tonal decision only pleasing to undiscriminating children, many of whom found Mirror Mirror to be rousingly delightful. It’s not. The classic Grimm’s fairy tale remains largely the same. When the king (Sean Bean) dies, his evil queen (Roberts) takes over and hatches a plan to take his rightful heir, Snow White (Lily “Daughter of Phil†Collins), out of the picture. Instead of dying, Snow meets up with a band of dwarves, meets a charming prince (Armie Hammer), and winds up happily ever after. Pretty much all that happens in the new version, but Snow is more proactive heroine and less distressed damsel. Naturally, Tarsem stages the silliness with the lush, visual wizardry one expects from the Immortals director, but the returns are diminishing. His amazing visions need to be matched with material that can equal them, and to date, they have not.

PINA (PG) 2011. A nominee for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Wim Wenders’ latest film pays tribute to the late German choreographer Pina Bausch. Filmed in 3D, Wenders takes audiences onto the stage alongside the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch and into the streets of Wuppertal where Bausch brought her creative visions to life for 35 years. Winner of the European Film Award for Best Documentary Feature and the Film Award in Gold for Best Documentary from the German Film Awards.

THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (PG) 1985. Ciné celebrates its fifth anniversary with five films about cinephilia shown in glorious 35mm. The second, Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo, is a charming, fantastical romantic comedy about a movie character, played by Athens, Ga. native Jeff Daniels, who comes to life and falls in love with a woman, Cecelia (Mia Farrow), who watches his movie every day. Meanwhile, the characters in the movie within the movie cannot progress the film without its lead. Woody received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

• THE RAID: REDEMPTION (R) You must forgive me. I’m not used to watching foreign action flicks outside of the comfort of my living room and Netflix. Subtitled violence doesn’t make it to Athens’ big screens very often as they don’t fill the multiplex seats (violence is the universal language, but subtitles don’t go over well with The Raid’s target demo) and are not Ciné’s jam (that is not a criticism of our beloved arthouse, merely an accepted understanding that genre films are an extremely exotic sighting there). The actioner, directed by Welshman Gareth Evans, has been hailed by many as the best action movie of (insert time period), and they’re right. It’s a tough, ultraviolent hail of bullets and body blows from beginning to end. A rookie SWAT office, Rama (Iko Uwais), and his team infiltrate the maximum security, high-rise sanctuary of Jakarta’s top thug. When the mission goes belly up, Rama must escape with his life and the lives of any other officers he can save. Fists fly as the film showcases the Indonesian martial art, Pencak Silat. In one hallway-set piece, Rama takes down 13-plus criminal soldiers all by himself. It’s a thing of violent beauty, if one can stomach the carnage.

RED TAILS (PG-13) Red Tails, a pet project of Star Wars creator George Lucas, succeeds everywhere it should and fails nowhere that should surprise anyone. The valor of the Tuskegee Airmen is every bit as worthy of patriotic, big screen fanfare as the flyers of Pearl Harbor and the WWI-era Lafayette Escadrille in Flyboys, and their movie is every bit the equal of dramatic lightweight and action heavyweight. These three aviation-centered war movies are near interchangeable, besides their single major hooks (Pearl Harbor, World War I and African-American pilots). A crew of attractive young black men (including Nate Parker, David Oleyowo, Tristan Wilds and Ne-Yo) are led into combat by stalwart veterans Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard and must battle racism on the ground and in the air. (The Luftwaffe knew they were dogfighting with black men.) The dialogue is tin-eared as previous Lucas films (the prequels come to mind) and does not benefit the actors at all. Still, exciting, jingoistic fervor can sometimes wear down any foe, even an enemy script. By Red Tails end, it’s near impossible to root against these great American underdogs.

THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (R) 2001. Writer/director Wes Anderson’s third film may not be as darkly funny as his mighty Rushmore, but it surely equals that film’s dark emotional core. The Tenenbaums, an estranged (and just plain strange) family, which includes father Royal (Gene Hackman), mother Etheline (Angelica Huston) and their three tortured, genius offspring (Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Luke Wilson), reunites after the paterfamilias announces his imminent death. The ensuing reconnections feel truer than most domestic melodramas, and Anderson’s ability to wring the heart while subtly rapping the funny bone is his own genius.

THE ROOM (2003) R. The unintentionally hilarious cult favorite returns for a midnight showing.

SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN (PG-13) A fisheries expert (Ewan McGregor) attempts to make a sheik’s dream of bringing fly fishing to Yemen a reality. The newest film from multiple Academy Award nominee Lasse Hallstrom (My Life as a Dog and The Cider House Rules) sounds like the sort of feel good, crowd pleaser at which he excels (think Chocolat). A script by Slumdog Millionaire’s Academy Award winning screenwriter Simon Beaufoy should not hurt. With Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas and Amr Waked.

THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY (G) In an era when most animated features are brash, loud commercials for action figures with fast food tie-ins, Studio Ghibli releases a quiet, thoughtful, humorous cartoon adaptation of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers. A young boy, Shawn (v. David Henrie), is sent to recuperate in the solitude of his aunt’s home. There he meets a tiny family of “Borrowersâ€â€”father Pod (v. Will Arnett, who does surprisingly well in a non-comedic role), mother Homily (v. Amy Poehler) and Arrietty (v. Bridgit Mendler)—and protects them from the nosy housekeeper, Hara (v. Carol Burnett). How refreshing it was to hear the few children in the theater laugh at an animated film that did not feature jokes about bodily functions, silly voices (I’m looking at you, Mater) or cute, talking animals! The Secret World of Arrietty may not have been directed by Hayao Miyazaki (he is credited as writer and executive producer), yet it retains the creative and artistic hallmarks of his greatest works. The attention to detail paid to Arrietty’s miniature world simply stuns. The ill-chosen musical interludes are the film’s single misstep.

TALES OF THE NIGHT (NR) 2011. The latest masterpiece from internationally acclaimed animator Michel Ocelot (Kirikou and the Sorceress, Azur & Asmar) returns to the shadow puppet contrasted against bright Day-Glo backgrounds style of his Princes and Princesses. Six fables set in the exotic lands of Tibet, medieval Europe, the plains of Africa, the Aztec empire and the Land of the Dead blend history with fantastical creatures like dragons and werewolves. Nominated for the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.

THINK LIKE A MAN (PG-13) When four friends learn the women in their lives have been using the advice from Steve Harvey’s book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, against them, the men attempt to turn the tables. The cast—Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence J, Romany Malco and Gabrielle Union—is young, attractive and appealing. This romantic comedy will probably fit Fantastic Four director Tim Story’s skill set better than those mediocre Marvel movies.

• THE THREE STOOGES (PG) Apparently, a modern update of Three Stooges is not an idea as utterly bereft of laughs as one would imagine. As staged by the Farrelly Brothers, the violent misadventures of Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos), Larry (Sean Hayes, “Will & Graceâ€) and Curly (Will Sasso, “MADtvâ€) now involve a murder plot, a reality TV show and saving an orphanage at which Larry David entertainingly plays a nun. Fans of the Stooges should be pleased as the chosen trio and their younger counterparts—Skyler Gisondo, Lance Chantiles-Wertz and Robert Capron—are swell stand-ins for the originals. Their performances may simply be long-form impressions, but they stand up to scrutiny. If anyone could be knocked for shallow, sketch-level work, it is “MADtv†alum Sasso; however, Curly’s mannerisms and catchphrases have so long been repeated, it is hard to imagine his “nyuck, nyucks†not seeming mere imitation. Boo to the Farrellys for splitting up the Stooges in the last episode (the movie is segmented in three) AND including an unwanted “Jersey Shore†gag. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched the Stooges (I was always a Moe fan); this movie reminded me how much fun those three could be.

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY (R) 2011. Despite the climactic presence of all the proper puzzle pieces, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy leaves the viewer to believe there’s more to be worked out as a result of retired British spy George Smiley’s (an excellently restrained Gary Oldman) return to semi-active duty to uncover the identity of a mole amongst the highest echelons of MI6. The performances from an absolutely dynamite cast of Britons (Oldman, Colin Firth, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, “Sherlockâ€â€™s Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong and upcoming Batman villain Tom Hardy) keep one engaged even as the pregnant pauses and furtive glances overly cloud the already opaque espionage waters of literary spymaster John Le Carré.

TITANIC (PG-13) 1997. One of the biggest hits of all-time and the winner of 11 Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director) gets even bigger with the addition of a third dimension. The shocking maritime disaster that took 1,514 lives becomes the backdrop for the love story of Jack and Rose (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) in King of the World James Cameron’s old-fashioned, blockbuster epic. I scoffed at the rerelease, but a recent trailer left me surprisingly interested to rewatch the film for the first time in years.

TO THE ARCTIC 3D (G) Meryl Streep narrates this nature documentary about a mother polar bear negotiating the once familiar, constantly changing Arctic that is her home with her two seven-month-old cubs. As these nature docs become more common, I cannot help but think there has to be more to the natural world than polar bears. How many movies about polar bears do we need? “Everest†director Greg MacGillvray has been nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Documentary Short for “Dolphins†and “The Living Sea.â€

THE VOW (PG-13) Nicholas Sparks has to be kicking himself for not coming up with this plot first. A young couple, Paige and Leo Collins (Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum), struggle to fall in love again after a car accident erases all of Paige’s memories of Leo and their marriage. As these plots are wont to do, Paige’s rich parents (Sam Neill and Jessica Lange) and her ex-lover (Scott Speedman) use her tabula rasa to rewrite their past wrongs, while Leo must cope with the realization that his wife might never remember him. The Vow climbs out of the romantic drama pits mostly due to its two charming leads, McAdams and Tatum, who must overcome some spotty dialogue, obvious plot developments and weak supporting players (not a lot of recognizable faces outside of those five already mentioned). Director Michael Sucsy, who won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for Grey Gardens, transitions to the big screen with surprising success considering the tear-soaked tissue of a true story with which he had to work. The Vow won’t make romance fans forget The Notebook, but it is better than most of the fake (and genuine) Sparks Hollywood’s been peddling.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (R) Lionel Shriver’s terrifying epistolary novel is brought to the big screen in an almost entirely different form by filmmaker Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar). A mother, Eva Khatchadourian (Tilda Swinton, in a Golden Globe nominated performance), struggles to rebuild her life amid flashbacks to raising her sociopathic son, Kevin. Ramsay foregoes Shriver’s letter structure, not lazily relying on voiceovers as most adapters would, but goes a bit overboard with the symbolism; does it really take two shots of Eva washing red paint from her hands to get the blood on her hands point across? The film offers a lot less insight into Eva, Kevin and mostly clueless husband/father Franklin (John C. Reilly) than the novel but successfully captures the loneliness of a mother whose bad seed proves far more than just distant and cold thanks to the tandem performances of Swinton and Ezra Miller/Jasper Newell/Rock Duer, who play Kevin as a teen, at 6-8 years and as a toddler (possibly the toughest task). If only the super-fragmented film—the first 15-20 minutes are more chore than hook—drew the audience in as readily and completely as its literary precursor.

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (PG-13) Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, returns to the big screen for his first role since the epic story of the famed Boy Who Lived ended. Sporting tremendously manicured sideburns (the tiny fellow resembles a young Wolverine), Radcliffe stars as lawyer Arthur Kipps, a widower struggling to raise his young son. To save his job, Kipps must travel to a small, isolated village and tidy up the affairs at an abandoned old house. Like something out of Lovecraft, the locals aren’t very welcoming to this strange newcomer. Director James Watkins chills his old-fashioned ‘aunted ‘ouse with creepy dolls, dead children and the titular black-clad woman. February horror films typically don’t have as many successful scares as this film contains in its nearly dialogue-free middle act. Due to smart hiring (Watkins, whose Eden Lake deserves a wider audience) and casting (Radcliffe works hard to prove he can be more than just Harry; Ciaran Hinds is always welcome), England’s hallowed Hammer Films proves they’ve still got it after all these years.

WRATH OF THE TITANS (PG-13) Is the problem that they don’t make them like they used to or that they make them too much like they used to? Wrath of the Titans, the tedious sequel to the boring remake of Clash of the Titans, is fully stocked on seen-that-before moments. Demigod Perseus (former next big thing Sam Worthington) is asked by his godly pops, Zeus (Liam Neeson), to help save humanity again. Apparently, Zeus’ bro, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), and Zeus’ other kid, Ares (Edgar Ramirez), are scheming with Zeus’ Titan dad, Cronos, to stage a monstrously large prison break, and the half-god is the only person who can stop it. Battle: Los Angeles director Jonathan Liebesman brings the exact same bag of shaky action tricks to ancient Greece, but believe it or not, Battle: LA is more exciting.